Rays’ Garza joins the no-hit parade

From the perfect to the untidy, from Miami Gardens to the 209, from Ubaldo to Dallas and the clear blue they’ve come.

They’ve been shot from the arms of superstars, slung from the imaginations of nobodies. And one was lost, too, in the grandness and glare of the moment.

Matt Garza celebrates his no-hitter against the Tigers, the Rays’ first no-hitter in franchise history.
(J. Meric/Getty Images)
2010 no-hitters

Matt Garza became the fifth pitcher this season to toss a no-hitter, and the third to face a minimum 27 batters.

Pitcher Date Team Opponent Score
Matt Garza July 26 Tampa Bay Detroit 5-0
Edwin Jackson June 25 Arizona Tampa Bay 1-0
Roy Halladay May 29 Philadelphia Florida 1-0*
Dallas Braden May 9 Oakland Tampa Bay 4-0*
Ubaldo Jimenez April 17 Colorado Atlanta 4-0
* Perfect games

On Monday night in St. Petersburg, Fla., in a crooked ballpark tucked between highways, another no-hitter – baseball’s fifth in just more than three months – was born.

Matt Garza(notes), the long and lean right-hander for the Tampa Bay Rays, pitched to 27 Detroit Tigers. The last – Ramon Santiago(notes) – popped out to right field on Garza’s 120th pitch, igniting a celebratory scrum on the artificial infield under the tilted dome of Tropicana Field. There, the Rays honored Garza, and the first no-hitter in the franchise’s 13-year history, and a 5-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers, and the relief that it was not they who were victimized this time.

Among the oddities of a no-hitter cluster that arrived with little warning, the Rays had been the casualties in three of the previous five. Over 368 days, they’d been no-hit by Mark Buehrle(notes), Dallas Braden(notes) and Edwin Jackson(notes). The first two were perfect games.

Garza, 26, allowed a single baserunner, a walk to rookie Brennan Boesch(notes) in the second inning. A double play followed on a rangy play by third baseman Evan Longoria(notes) and nifty turn by Reid Brignac(notes).

Garza leaned on his hard fastball for most of the game, beating a diminished Tigers lineup with force and guile. The last of his six strikeouts came on a slider that Gerald Laird(notes) took for the second out of the ninth inning. Then, on his third pitch to Santiago, Garza induced a soft fly to right fielder Ben Zobrist(notes). Garza thrust his hands over his head as Zobrist ran the game ball to the mound, joining his teammates in the fifth on-field rave in what some are calling The Year of the Pitcher.

“That ninth inning,” Garza told reporters afterward, “I kept telling myself, ‘Just finish it, just finish it, just battle, battle. If it’s meant to happen, it’s going to happen.’ ”

They are getting easier to believe in. Some say the no-hitters are harbingers of change, others the slop left from the game’s dalliances with steroids and greenies, others a mere fluke that comes along every generation or so. The modern-era record for no-hitters in a season is seven, set in 1990 and matched in 1991.

Forty years after he no-hit the Oakland Athletics, Clyde Wright watched Garza’s no-hitter on a television at Angel Stadium.

“It just happens,” said Wright, whose own no-hitter fell three weeks after Dock Ellis’ and 2½ weeks before Bill Singer’s. “It’s like driving a car. You go five years without getting a ticket, then you get two in two weeks. It’s something you can’t explain. It just happens.”

Wright, who had a career record of 100-111, grinned and added, “I’ll tell you one thing – I wish they had tried to throw a no-hitter with the [stuff] I had.”

Since Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) no-hit the Atlanta Braves on April 17, the no-nos – Nos. 264-268 – have come at a rate of about one every three weeks. Oakland’s Dallas Braden and Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay(notes) pitched perfect games in May. Arizona’s Edwin Jackson, the former Ray, no-hit the Rays in June. And, in early June, Armando Galarraga(notes) of the Tigers lost his perfect game when first base umpire Jim Joyce blew a call with two out in the ninth inning. Galarraga watched from the Tigers’ dugout Monday night.

Garza required fewer than a handful of difficult defensive plays. Zobrist robbed Danny Worth(notes) with a leaping catch in the third. Left fielder Carl Crawford(notes) stayed with Miguel Cabrera’s(notes) hard liner in the eighth. Only six days earlier, Garza had been hammered by the punchless Baltimore Orioles, allowing 10 hits and seven runs in 6 1/3 innings. He’d allowed three consecutive home runs at one point, those helping to elevate his ERA to a season-high 4.36.

He took the ball before the game Monday, eager to put that start behind him. But, in the bullpen, he was disappointed.

“Nothing felt right,” he said. “I told myself, ‘Just go with it.’ ”

Through five innings, not only had he not allowed a hit, but neither had Tigers starter Max Scherzer(notes). In the sixth, the Rays loaded the bases against Scherzer before Matt Joyce(notes) (the outfielder they once acquired for Edwin Jackson) got the Rays’ first hit. It was a fly ball that hugged the right-field line and fell over the fence for a grand slam.

From there, Garza was on his own. He said that as the innings wore on he tried not to think about the historical significance.

“The more you try,” he said, “the more you avoid bats and get your pitch count up and you’re out by the fifth inning. Believe me, I’ve been there.

“It is good enough to attack. [Pitching coach Jim] Hickey has been telling me, ‘Attack, attack, attack.’ ”

So he did.

“As long as we get to October and play for that big one,” he said, “I’ll take it any way we can get there.”

If it takes a no-hitter, a single walk from perfect, then OK. And why not? Everybody else is doing it.